After the Dolphins 23-6 loss to the Falcons dropped their preseason record to 0-3, it is evident that the team still has plenty of work to do with just over two weeks before Miami kicks off the regular season in Houston. Although many areas of concern remain for this young Dolphins squad, last nights exhibition game provided Joe Philbin and his staff with several positives to build on going forward.
The pass rush that has been non-existent in the Dolphins first two preseason games was bolstered by the return of Cameron Wake to the lineup. It didn't take long for Wake to make his presence known as he recorded a critical third down sack, forcing Atlanta to attempt a 44 yard field goal. Wake was at it again this time teaming up with rookie third round pick Olivier Vernon to bring down Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and end the first half. The Dolphins secondary also showed flashes of their full potential with cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis making many key tackles to stall what looked to be a promising drive. Davis' performance will go a long way in his efforts to win back the starting CB job from free agent acquisition Richard Marshall. Overall the Dolphins starting defense who were without Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett looked sharp, holding a potent Atlanta offence to long field goal attempts and only allowing nine points heading into the break.
While in the midst of a quarterback competition between Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore the Dolphins neglected the running game in the first two preseason tilts. The gameplan chenged for Friday night as the Dolphins backs carried the ball 13 times for 61 yards in the first half. Starting RB Reggie Bush picked up where he left off last season and opened the game with an 18 yard dash through the gaping hole provided by the left side of the offensive line. Bush gave way to Daniel Thomas in the second quarter who rushed for 26 yards on 5 carriers and showed why the Dolphins traded up into the second round to select him in the 2011 NFL Draft. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill also showed off his athletism as he scampered for a 15 yard run to keep the chains moving. For the Dolphins to have any success this season they must rely on their strengths and the run game is certainly one of them.
Kicker Dan Carpenter put all the doubters to rest as he drilled a 52 yard field goal for the second consecutive game. He has rebounded nicely after missing two field goals in the week one preseason loss to Tampa Bay. With the Dolphins not expected to light up opposing defenses this season, Carpenter will be relied on to put up points therefore strong play from him is crucial.
The Dolphins most glaring need was on display once again. Miami's wide reciever core didn't do Tannehill any favors last night and made his final stats of 11 of 27 for 112 yards and 1 INT look much worse then they actually were. In total the Dolphins wide recievers dropped six passes. The usually sure handed Anthony Fasano dropped two including one in the end zone, Legedu Naanee dropped two of his own and Charles Clay and Julius Pruitt each dropped a pass from backup Matt Moore. The Dolphins leading reciever Davone Bess was one of the lone bright spots in the offence as he made four receptions for 59 yards and proved that he is the only legitimate wide reciever currently on Miami's roster. General Manager Jeff Ireland must work quickly to acquire another weapon for Tannheill whether it is via trade or a waiver wire addition.
The great thing about the preseason is that it's merely a test run and like every other NFL team, the Dolphins have yet to lose an actual game. With several positives to build on there is still reason for Dolphins fans to be optimistic about this season and beyond. Miami will take on the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday in their final preseason game and even though it doesn't count, a win will provide the team with some momentum entering the regular season.
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In the third and perhaps the most crucial preseason game the Miami Dolphins will host the Atlanta Falcons at Sun Life Stadium. Both teams enter Friday's contest with identical 0-2 records however their weaknesses thus far are complete opposites. The Falcons first team looks to be in peak mid-season form and are establishing a reputation that their starters are amongst the best in the league. Unfortunately for Atlanta their backups have struggled mightily and have allowed opponents to mount a comeback in the second half.
On the other end of the field it's the Dolphins starters who have been mediocre to say the least while their second, third and fourth team units have kept games relatively close. As the Miami offence stuggled to put up points, the defence was on their heels seemingly unable to force a punt or turnover.
Last Friday against the Carolina Panthers, Ryan Tannehill started for the first time in his young NFL career finishing 11 of 23 for 100 yards including an impressive 67 yard drive capped by a Daniel Thomas touchdown run. Although these aren't exactly stellar numbers from the rookie quarterback, it was more than enough to win the starting job from incumbent Matt Moore. It's worth monitoring how Tannehill performs in two days time seeing as it will likely be his last game action before taking on the Houston Texans in week 1 of the regular season.
One of the main issues for the Dolphins in the matchup against Carolina was the play of the offensive line, specifically the right side where rookie Jonathan Martin was getting beat for most of the night. Once Jake Long and second year centre Mike Pouncey exited the game, the offensive line gave Tannehill very little time to operate resulting in three quarterback sacks. Martin still has a lot of work to do if he plans to be a starter this season however he has showed signs of improvement this week in practice.
Another concern for Miami is the wide reciever core which lacks a bonafide No. 1 option. Sitting a top the depth chart, Legedu Naanee and Davone Bess will get the start and are in tough against a talented Falcons secondary. In the first two games Naanee has been virtually invisible but has earned a spot on the first team thanks to strong showings in practice. Naanee will be one to watch as his performance under the lights will be key for the coaching staff in determining his role on the opening day roster.
Switching focus to the defense, it was surprising how little pressure the Dolphins pass rushers generated on the Panthers. Cam Newton completed over 70% of his passes and averaged over 10 yards per attempt. The lack of pressure isn't a concern yet, Miami did play without the likes of Cameron Wake, Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby. Expect the pass rush to improve significantly with Wake and Burnett making a return to the lineup while Dansby remains doubtful.
This is by far Miami's toughest test of the preseason as the Dolphins starters will be challenged on both sides of the ball. Although preseason games have absolutely no impact on the regular season a win at home against the Falcons would instill confidence into the players going forward and provide the fan base with glimmer of hope. In order for Joe Philbin to win his first game as an NFL head coach, the starters will need to perform to their abilty.
After watching the third episode of HBO Hard Knocks, it is evident that the Miami Dolphins players are ready for whatever is coming. Whether it be the Houston Texans on September 9th, the ups and downs of a rookie season for QB Ryan Tannehill, and the media's swarm over the team as Coach Philbin aims to right the ship that has been almost a decade of being dominated by AFC foes New England and the Jets.
First, the Dolphins players demonstrated resiliency in their preseason game by picking up the slack as the game wore on. In the first quarter, Ryan Tannehill appeared battered and bruised by an offensive line that could not stop the Carolina Panthers pass rush. However, early in the second quarter, something clicked out of the shotgun and Tannehill led a 15 play drive where he completed 5 passes in a row leading to a 1 yard counter play by Daniel Thomas. This drive was pivotal and even though the Dolphins were down, Tannehill's leadership emerged and the players shrugged off the negativity of having one less player in Chad Johnson.
Next, if the Dolphins are going to be competitive, everything starts from that moment of the first scoring drive in Carolina to the moments when Tannehill was named the starter. It is quite clear that Ryan Tannehill has the support of his coaches and players including Matt Moore. Moore will play a crucial role in the development of Ryan Tannehill. Confidence oozes from this kid more than any other rookie the Dolphins have brought in this position. It will be important to give the kid everything and see what he can do. It starts in Houston facing one of the toughest defenses and venues to play.
Lastly, the Dolphins for years have made changes to coaches to get over the hump in the division. Coaches such as Saban and Sparano with Parcells leading the charge appeared to be a quick fix winning a division or regaining respecatability with the Saban hire even though no playoff appearance occured. The Dolphins have to let this play out even if as a fan we can't live with Coach Philbin's meticulousness or his way of doing things. One thing is for sure, the Dolphins have charged Coach Joe Philbin of doing things the right way and that right way is creating a culture that fosters intelligence, accountability, and integrity. In some cases, some media members might scoff at the idea that players refer to the coach as a teacher, but if everything has not worked until this point, then why not give this team a chance to eventually be good or even great.
Of course, it will take time and we as Dolfans will be suffering for awhile, but when that day does come to hoist that Lombardi Trophy, all of these growing pains will have been worth the wait!
It’s Tuesday night and time to turn your televisions back to your favorite program of the offseason, HBO’s Hard Knocks. The third episode of the program had a little less drama surrounding it as Ryan Tannehill had already been named the Dolphins starter earlier in the week and the Chad Johnson drama has come to an end ( thank the lord) .
Despite now groundbreaking news that appeals to the national media, Hard Knocks did share some interesting tidbits for Dolphins fans.
- The leadership council of Reggie Bush, Jake Long and Karlos Dansby is formed, while this isn’t the nation of domination from the old days of the WWE, after the players were asking to
find out more about the Chad situation from the coaches and Ireland, Philbin thought it was best that a leadership group was formed. Long and Bush both look like very suitable leaders, who are driven and determined to steer this team in the right direction.
- Reggie Bush is far from a diva Hollywood big name, the dude brings it every day, works hard and is a true professional
- Michael Egnew is still seriously struggling as we saw tight end coach Dan Campbell blast him again, I seriously question him as a 3rd round draft pick
- Vontae Davis is slowly starting to pick up his game, the beginnings of seeing flashes of his potential showed.
- The coaching staff likes what they see in Pat Devlin; even a Tony Romo comparison was made. Given Garrard’s injury, I would not be shocked if the Dolphins kept the cheaper Devlin on the
roster over Garrard.
- Coach Philbin also did take a hit at the local media, which has annoyed a few media members out there already.
- The end of the episode showed QB coach Zac Taylor informing Tannehill he will be named the starter, by the look from Matt Moore he saw it coming all the way. Taylor then told Moore “I
look at you as the best backup QB in the league “. Despite the tough news Matt Moore was a class act and a true pro taking the news.
- Richie Incognito's advice for Tannehill when he got named the starter: "Don't fuck it up!"
That’s it for this week’s Hard Knocks, should be more entertaining and interesting Dolphins news and story lines to follow next week.